Thursday, June 18, 2015
Montana Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents / and those little white crosses (Part 2)
It’s interesting. First off, the State of Montana does not run the ‘little white cross’ program. Since 1953, this program has been promoted and maintained by local chapters of the American Legion. They have received the endorsement of several Montana governors, but apparently no significant State funds are expended. The State has participated to some degree in erecting signs, upon entry into Montana, explaining the highway ‘cross’ meaning.
Officially, the program is now known as the “White Marker Highway Fatality Program.”
The crosses are not meant as a memorial to any particular person; nor (officially) is there any religious connotation intended. The ‘cross’ purpose is to raise awareness among the public; and increase motor vehicle safety. The crosses are not in every county, but are in most.
There is one cross for “each fatal accident,” which makes one wonder about the five crosses displayed together that I noted in my previous post. I guess it depends on how you count fatal accidents (body count or actual accident count).
The dimensions and manner of presentation for each cross is consistent state-wide. They are not to be decorated – although clearly many are – apparently by friends or family of the deceased. When a road is improved the cross is removed – unless a family member specifically requests a new cross be installed. Furthermore, family members can request that a cross not be installed at an accident scene; or that they would like to have a cross removed.
The Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Montana Highway Patrol have praised the program. So who am I to disparage it? Now that I know more about it, I guess it’s OK – but, I still feel it is a little bizarre.
The question is, ‘does it work?’
Well, Montana has 1.96 fatal motor vehicle deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven. Oregon has .94 deaths. In other words, Montana roads are twice as deadly. Apparently, the ‘little white crosses’ are accomplishing very little.
Oh, regarding motorcycle deaths, remember I previously mentioned the inordinately high speeds on some roads and no helmet requirement in Montana. Well, I did find some statistics on that. Although Oregon’s population is three times the population of Montana, the number of fatal motorcycle accidents is pretty much the same: In 2013, Oregon had 34 deaths (32 were wearing helmets). In 2013, Montana had 35 motorcycle fatalities (12 were wearing helmets).